a/k/a Linear Fun #4: Hit 'Em
She wants her laptop cart back so I'm ducking her calls, trashing her e-mails, employing idle freshmen to shield me as she walks past.
I don't know how this happened. I reached for those laptops to show my tech detractors I could, to inoculate myself against charges of Ludditism the next time we went to the mattresses, debating the relevance of the read/write web to math education.
"But Some Of My Best Friends Are Laptops."
But then, after our first investigation into the flight data, after they selected their own data sets for regression analysis, after we investigated the data from the Department of Motor Vehicles (which y'all positively killed in the comments, thanks) I roughed up an interactive activity in Microsoft Excel:
Punch in a slope and y-intercept. Do your best to hit a set of targets. Get ready to give me several sentences explaining both.
There were positive, zero, negative, rational, and impossible slopes.
This was, like, the fifteenth extension on the mobile lab return deadline I begged off my tech coordinator and I realized this laptop thing was no longer an affectation. I wasn't posing. It was real, more or less.
The Lonely Criterion
If you're a tech proponent, coordinator, evangelist, or whatever, I'd like to break my complicated, conflicted, highly emotional experience (seriously: who am I anymore?) into small pieces for you.
- I had to accomplish a specific instructional objective1. My students would a) model some part of their world with a linear equation, and b) explain the significance of the equation's parameters.
- Microsoft Excel (coupled with a web browser) was the best tool to accomplish those objectives. And by "best" I'm balancing more factors than I have time or eloquence to describe but a) student engagement (are their brains working hard?), b) student enjoyment (are they having fun?), c) seat-hours expended (could I use our in-class time better?), d) planning hours expended (could I use my out-of-class time better?), and e) assessment scores (how well can they demonstrate mastery of the objective?) certainly round out the top five.
That is my uncomplicated flowchart, my lonely criterion for working technology into my classroom or not. I can't imagine it is uniquely mine.
Your Job, Simplified
See, this is great. You don't have to email your entire faculty a link to Mike Wesch's latest call to educational action2. You don't have to throw statistics at me. You've convinced me that my students need different instruction this century than they did in the last — check. got that. — yet you've satisfied only one-tenth your job description.
See this is the bummer. Now you have to immerse yourself in my content standards and use tech to help me satisfy the same instructional objectives in some way that's a) more engaging, b) more fun, c) less time-intensive for my students in-class, d) less time-intensive for me out-of-class, or e) sturdier upon assessment3.
But this is also a bummer because, assuming your background wasn't in every content area your school offers, you have to build a robust network of prolific educators pushing every content area in every direction but down.
And that's the final bummer for y'all School 2.0 sectarians I've hectored these last fifteen months: unless I'm missing several platoons of math teacher bloggers, we're stuck with each other.
'Cause I'm starting to enjoy these Internets of yours, and finding a place for them in my classes.
- We can debate the merits of my state's content standards, fine, but you can't ask me to defy my employers, simultaneously setting my students up to fail in their next class, all so BJ Nesbitt won't think I'm a lousy teacher. I mean, if that's integral to the master plan, we have some work to do.
- For serious: if I never saw another stony-faced child staring grimly at the camera, holding a hand-scrawled sign denouncing her out-of-touch, digital-immigrant teacher for not letting her SMS her iPod playlist to her Facebook group (or whatever) during class it would be too soon.
- Really, if you can show me gains along any of those vectors without losing the others, you'll be my valentine.